Russia Says It’s in Touch with Israel and Palestinians, Wants to Help Solve Crisis 

This aerial photo show heavily damaged buildings following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 10, 2023. (AFP)
This aerial photo show heavily damaged buildings following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Russia Says It’s in Touch with Israel and Palestinians, Wants to Help Solve Crisis 

This aerial photo show heavily damaged buildings following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 10, 2023. (AFP)
This aerial photo show heavily damaged buildings following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 10, 2023. (AFP)

Russia said on Tuesday it was in contact with both Israel and the Palestinians and would seek to play a role in resolving the conflict between them.

Four days into the crisis that started with a deadly Hamas attack on Israel, the Kremlin did not present any concrete initiative but underlined the strength of its relations with both sides.

Moscow has long-standing historical ties with the Palestinians but also "a lot in common" with Israel, including the fact that many Israelis are former Russian citizens, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"Therefore, we maintain relations with both sides of this conflict. We conduct contacts and take part in all the - unfortunately few - formats that are looking for common ground for a settlement and which do not work very effectively, as recent practice has shown," he said.

"But nevertheless we intend to keep making efforts and play our role in terms of providing assistance to seek ways to a settlement."

Israel was on Tuesday pounding Gaza with the fiercest air strikes in the 75-year history of its conflict with the Palestinians, in response to the wave of deadly Hamas attacks at the weekend. Moscow has said it is worried that the violence could escalate into a broader conflict in the Middle East.

Peskov said the Kremlin was trying to establish whether any Russians were among the hostages taken by Hamas.

"The necessary contacts are being made in order to understand whether this is true or not and what the future fate of these people is," he said.

Peskov said a suggestion by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that it was in Russia's interests to stoke war in the Middle East to weaken global unity had "absolutely no basis".

"This is a long-standing conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has very deep roots, many deep contradictions. Many people know the backstory, but it is so deep that not everyone knows the nuances," he said.



UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
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UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)

The United Nations refugee chief said on Friday that Sudanese refugees could be making their way to Europe if humanitarian aid was not adequately provided to the people of the war-torn country.

War erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), devastating the country's infrastructure, prompting warnings of famine and displacing millions of people inside and outside the country.

Thousands of civilians have been killed, although death toll estimates are highly uncertain, and both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the humanitarian crisis in Sudan could prompt desperate Sudanese to flee beyond neighboring countries, where nearly two million people have already sought shelter.

"We know very well that this region is full of criminals that want to take advantage of the misery of refugees and displaced and help them move on at a cost towards North Africa, towards Europe," Grandi told Reuters at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

"I'm making the case for more support to be given to those that are displaced inside Sudan or immediately in the neighboring countries, because otherwise they will become refugees along those routes."

Arrivals of refugees and other migrants, particularly those who reach countries by irregular means, is a significant and divisive political issue in a number of European nations.

Statistics published by UNHCR show increased movements of Sudanese refugees to Europe, with 6,000 arriving in Italy from Tunisia and Libya since the beginning of 2023.

That figure represents an almost sixfold increase compared to the previous year, although Sudanese people still represent a small percentage of arrivals in Italy.

"Is humanitarian aid going to stop everybody from moving? Of course not," said Grandi, who will take part in a donor conference on Sudan in Paris on Monday.

"But certainly, it is a stabilizing factor that reduces the incentives for people to be trafficked and smuggled on."

In separate comments on Friday, the World Health Organization said the crisis in Sudan will worsen in the months to come if the fighting does not stop and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid is not secured.

"We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and the situation could be much more dire," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said, stressing that 15 million people were in need of urgent health assistance and that diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue were spreading.

Lindmeier said medical supplies in the country were estimated at about 25% of the needs, and 70 to 80% of Sudanese health facilities were not functioning due to the conflict.


Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
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Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)

Somalia will never accept Ethiopia's plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland, but it would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs said on Friday.

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km (12 miles) of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland as part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

"Somalia will never accept (a) naval base ... Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea," Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs Ali Omar told Reuters.

He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals so long as they meet the country's interests which are to "safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity".


UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Waterborne diseases are spreading in Gaza due to a lack of clean water and rising temperatures, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Gaza said on Friday.

"It is becoming very hot there," Jamie McGoldrick told reporters via video link from Jerusalem. "People are getting much less water than they need, and as a result, there have been waterborne diseases due to lack of safe and clean water and the disruption of the sanitation systems."

"We have to find a way in the months ahead of how we can have a better supply of water into the areas where people are currently crowded at the moment," he said, after making his final visit to Gaza at the end of his three-month assignment.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the World Health Organization.

Since mid-October, following the assault on Gaza in response to deadly attacks in southern Israel by Hamas, WHO has recorded more than 345,000 cases of diarrhea, including more than 105,000 in children under 5.

Israel has committed to facilitate the ability of humanitarian organizations to scale up aid in Gaza, and has approved the resumption of the operation of the water pipeline in northern Gaza.

The Gaza Strip's only natural source of water is the Coastal Aquifer Basin, which runs along the eastern Mediterranean coast from the northern Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, through Gaza and into Israel.

Its quality over the years has deteriorated rapidly, largely because it had been pumped out to meet the demands of Gaza's population more rapidly than it could be replaced by rainwater.


Israeli Forces Kill Two Palestinians Including Hamas Gunman in West Bank

An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Forces Kill Two Palestinians Including Hamas Gunman in West Bank

An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians, including a member of the armed wing of Hamas, near Tubas in the occupied West Bank on Friday following a raid on the town earlier in the morning, the military said.

It said Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, whom it described as the head of Hamas infrastructure in the Tubas area of the Jordan valley was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces. It said a number of weapons and military-style equipment, including automatic rifles were found in his vehicle.

Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh's death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said another man was killed by Israeli forces conducting a raid in the Al-Fara refugee camp in Tubas. Hamas said it mourned the man's death but did not claim him as a member.

The military said forces carrying out the operation opened fire on Palestinians who threw explosive devices and killed one man it said was attempting to attack them.

The incident was the latest in a wave of confrontations in the West Bank between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, including both gunmen and unarmed protestors, since the start of the war in Gaza last October.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most of them armed fighters but some of them unarmed civilians, and thousands have been arrested or detained. In the same period more than a dozen Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers.


Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Thousands of Lebanese on Friday mourned a slain Lebanese Forces official authorities said was killed by a Syrian gang, with supporters pointing the finger at Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

Pascal Sleiman was a coordinator in the Jbeil area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian party, which opposes the government in neighboring Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

On Monday, the army said that Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.

His party said it would consider Sleiman's death a "political assassination until proven otherwise".

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied that his party was involved.

Speaking after Sleiman's funeral, LF leader Samir Geagea called for the "failed, corrupt" authorities in Lebanon to be changed.

Geagea blamed their failure, among other things, on "illegal weapons" -- a barely veiled reference to Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed group is the only party in Lebanon that has kept its weapons arsenal after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and it wields great influence on the country's political life.

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in actions opposed by the LF and other parties.

"We don't want to wake up one day, as we did now, and find ourselves involved in a never-ending war," Geagea said Friday.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, spiritual leader of Lebanon's largest Christian sect, held back tears as he presided over Sleiman's funeral in Jbeil.

Outside the St Georges church, LF supporters waved the party's white flag with its cedar tree -- the symbol of Lebanon -- circled in red.

Mourners told AFP they were unconvinced by the army's version that car thieves killed Sleiman.

"This story never convinced me. It is not coherent at all," said Jean Habshi, 50, who came to pay his respects.

"Enough with Hezbollah, enough with the illegal weapons," Roba Hajal, 24, told AFP outside the church.

"If they (Hezbollah) did not kill him, at the very least they allowed the Syrians in. We are all at risk of meeting Pascal's fate," she said.

Lebanon has a long history of political assassinations that have taken place with impunity.

Years of economic meltdown have further strained a weak judiciary that has been widely accused of succumbing to political interference.

Ziad Hawat, an LF lawmaker from Jbeil, on Friday called for a "serious, transparent" probe into Sleiman's murder, adding that the party had concerns "based on past experiences".

"We do not want the killer to be known to all," he added, while "remaining unknown to the judiciary".

On Tuesday, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in Sleiman's killing.


Dozens of Palestinians Killed in Gaza as Hamas Official Vows to ‘Break’ Israel

A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Dozens of Palestinians Killed in Gaza as Hamas Official Vows to ‘Break’ Israel

A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)

Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the north and center of the Gaza Strip on Friday as Khaled Meshaal, a senior official in Gaza's ruling Hamas movement, said its six-month-old battle with Israel would "break the enemy soon".

Most Israeli troops have been pulled out of Gaza in preparation for an assault on the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering, but fighting has continued in various areas.

Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea that had followed a surprise ground offensive on Thursday, and that houses and two mosques had been destroyed.

Health officials said earlier that six people had been killed in strikes on the camp, and around 70 wounded, including three Palestinian journalists.

In Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said at least 25 people had been killed and several wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in Al-Daraj neighborhood. Gaza's health ministry said 89 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military strikes in the space of 24 hours.

The Israel military (IDF) said it was pursuing "a precise intelligence-based operation" against militants and their infrastructure in central Gaza.

"Over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck over 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including underground launch posts, military infrastructure and sites in which armed terrorists operated," a military statement said. "In parallel, IDF artillery struck terrorist infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip."

Meshaal spoke at an event in Doha, Qatar, to mourn members of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh's family killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday.

"This is not the final round," he said. "It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project."

At least 33,545 Palestinians have now been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Gaza's health ministry said, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced and much of the enclave laid to waste.

The war began when Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage. Around 130 are still being held incommunicado in Gaza, Israel says.


Egypt Pardons Thousands of Prisoners on Eid al-Fitr

Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
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Egypt Pardons Thousands of Prisoners on Eid al-Fitr

Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)

Egypt released more than 3,000 prisoners, in a usual annual amnesty on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said, on Thursday, that the Ministry’s Community Protection Sector examined the cases of inmates, both male and female, in correctional and rehabilitation centers across the country, to determine those deserving of pardon, in implementation of the decision of the President of the Republic, on the occasion of the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

The official Middle East News Agency reported that the families of the released prisoners have expressed their “happiness at the change they saw in their children’s behavior” as a result of their presence in the rehabilitation centers, expressing gratitude for “giving them a new opportunity to engage within society.”

A number of human rights organizations say that Egyptian prisons suffer from overcrowding and weak health services.

In this regard, MP Tariq Radwan, head of the Human Rights Committee in the Egyptian House of Representatives, said: “The decision to pardon detainees confirm that the Egyptian state is seeking new policies towards human rights and the right of expression.”

In a statement, Radwan noted that the decision was a “positive step” towards a real and effective national dialogue, stressing that “the Egyptian state confirms its determination to provide an adequate atmosphere that meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

Caption: Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)


Sudanese Diplomat Criticizes His Country’s Absence from Paris Conference

Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
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Sudanese Diplomat Criticizes His Country’s Absence from Paris Conference

Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)

Sudan’s ambassador to France Dr. Khaled Farah expressed his surprise and condemnation at the absence of his government from a conference in Paris that will focus on the situation in his country.

The event, which will take place at the French Foreign Ministry on Monday, is being organized in cooperation with Germany and the European Union, in the absence of official Sudanese representation.

“The conference addresses a matter that concerns an independent and sovereign state. It was arranged without consulting Sudan,” he said, adding that the legitimate government was not invited to participate at any level.

Farah pointed out that the Rapid Support Forces will be “implicitly present and strongly participating in this conference, through political allies and sympathizers... such as the so-called Democratic and Civil Forces (Taqaddum) ... and other non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, and representatives of some political organizations and individuals.”

He expressed alarm that the conference will ultimately be used to prop up the RSF and back it with diplomatic and financial support “under the pretext of concern for the tragedy of the Sudanese people.”

The Sudanese diplomat criticized equating his government with the “rebel Rapid Support militia” - RSF - rejecting some of the common expressions that describe the ongoing war as between “two warring parties” or “the two sides of the conflict.”

“The matter is simply a failed military coup for the purpose of seizing power, with the support and complicity of some regional and international circles,” he remarked.


Disintegration of the State Allows Israeli Mossad to Deeper Infiltrate Lebanon

Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
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Disintegration of the State Allows Israeli Mossad to Deeper Infiltrate Lebanon

Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)

The Israeli Mossad appears to have breached Lebanon in wake of its economic and financial collapse that have weakened state institutions and its security services

In the past two years, the Mossad has been able to penetrate Hezbollah’s circles, and this has led to the assassination of dozens of field commanders and members since the beginning of the clashes in southern Lebanon on Oct. 8.

The murder of Mohammad Srour in Beit Meri in Lebanon’s northern Metn area has led to speculation that he may have been killed by Israeli intelligence, a theory that was consolidated by the Israeli press.

Lebanese judicial sources backed this view by pointing to his role in transferring money from Iran to Hezbollah and the Hamas movement in Lebanon, and the fact that he is on the US sanctions list.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the judicial and security investigations put forward multiple scenarios for his assassination, noting that they were looking for evidence to confirm whether external parties were behind the crime.

Former Minister Rashid Derbas said the Beit Meri operation bore the hallmarks of the Mossad, stressing that any crime that occurs in Lebanon is the “natural result of the collapse of the state and its structure.”

“No party, entity, or militia can replace the state, no matter how strong it is,” Derbas said, added that the disintegration of the state is due to “the duality of power and Hezbollah’s control over it.”

The Information Division of the Internal Security Forces has been able, in the past two years, to arrest around 20 agents working for Israel, including people who had joined Hezbollah.

The investigations revealed that the Mossad “was luring these people with money, communicating with them through an unmonitored network, holding meetings with them in countries such as Türkiye, Greece, Cyprus, and Africa, and assigning them security tasks.”

The former head of the military court, Brigadier General Khalil Ibrahim, who previously tried hundreds of these agents, noted that Mossad’s security activity in Lebanon never stopped, but its decline for a period was due to the vigilance of the security services and their ability to dismantle dozens of networks.

He explained that Israel “has espionage networks that are active in a country with fragile security,” stressing that Lebanon’s economic crisis has had negative repercussions on the military and security institutions and their technical, operational and intelligence capabilities.


Iranian Revenge Looms Large over Upcoming Meeting between Iraqi PM, Biden

 Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
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Iranian Revenge Looms Large over Upcoming Meeting between Iraqi PM, Biden

 Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)

Iran’s response to Israel’s attack on its consulate in Syria will loom large over the meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and US President Joe Biden in Washington next week.

The leaders are scheduled to meet on April 15.

Iran has vowed to retaliate to the April 1 attack, which killed a top Iranian general, and that marked an escalation in the violence that has spread through the region since the Gaza war began.

Tehran has carefully avoided any direct role in the regional spillover, while backing groups which have waged attacks from Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Iranian-backed Shiite militias have not attacked US troops in Syria and Iraq since early February.

In Washington, Sudani will focus on the security cooperation and the situation of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition deployed in Iraq amid growing calls in his country for its withdrawal.

He will also discuss US sanctions on Iraqi banks, said an Iraqi government source.

Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool said on Tuesday that the Iraqi military committee and its counterpart in the anti-ISIS coalition agreed to form a “firm security partnership with the US.”

A statement from the committee said the US will help in bolstering and developing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces to boost the security of Iraq and the region.

The government source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Biden will discuss with Sudani the role of Iran in Iraq and the need to limit the activities of its proxies.

He will likely also address the role Iraq can play in halting the Iranian escalation in wake of the consulate attack.

US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk has called the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq to ask them to deliver a message to Iran urging it to lower tensions, a source with knowledge of the situation said according to Reuters on Thursday.

Two Shiite sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian response is unlikely to take place in Iraq.

The pro-Iran factions will not reopen the Iraqi scene to confront the Americans, they added.